Monday, 7 May 2007

DVD: Labyrinth

Lowdown: A fantasy that's neither here nor there but is all eighties.
The eighties! Those were the days of bad hairdos, weird clothing and the worst music imaginable. Oddly enough, all three have a significant role in Labyrinth, a film that up until now I've only seen once - when my sister took me to see it in Tel Aviv's now dead cinema Paris by the beach. And what a unique cinema it was: I've had my first glimpse of the Monty Pythons there; I didn't really remember it for Labyrinth.
Probably for a very good reason, because Labyrinth is a pretty bad film. The story follows Jennifer Connelly, whom I consider to be one of the better actresses around, at a time in which she didn't really get her act together (the film was released in 1986, so I suppose she was 15 around shooting time). Little Jenny doesn't really get along well with her father and step mother (I may have mixed the stepness here), and most of all she despises little baby Toby - her step brother - who seems to end up with her toys. She wishes he would be taken away, and lo and behold - he is taken away, by the Goblin King - David Bowie clad in very eighties frocks and piles of makeup.
Connelly comes to her senses and sets out to retrieve her brother before Bowie turns him into a goblin in your typical magical land of fantasy, but she only has 13 hours to save the earth and in those 13 hours she has to cross the labyrinth leading to Bowie's castle.
Which is where the Hanson element of the film starts. After all, Labyrinth is remembered mostly for being a Muppet Show like film, with similar puppetry and similar characters run by the same lot that did Kermit & Co. The film is also produced by one George Lucas and has a Terry Jones involved, too (he's the Python that played Brian's mother); so you'd expect the film to be good. But then again, you'd also expect Episodes 1 to 3 to be good, and they were as bad as they could ever be, so at least you can argue that Lucas has become consistent with time.
Why am I arguing that Labyrinth is bad? Several reasons. First, as I have already said, the acting is really bad. Second, all dialog is ADR (looped recordings done in post production); it's all done pretty bad, with voices sounding totally detached from what you see on the screen and the lack of lip sync driving you crazy. But it's not only that: the plot is very much contrived, as if saying "this is a kids' film therefore we can get away with anything", and the various characters Connelly encounters while in the labyrinth have the potential to be interesting but never really get developed. The labyrinth itself is supposed to be a source of intrigue and imagination, but other than throw the occasional curiously weird thing at you it fails at both.
The soundtrack deserves special mentioning, as David Bowie is one of my all time favorite musicians. Yet, how can I put it? The songs of his that grace Labyrinth are no Ziggy Stardust; not even Let's Dance.
The bottom line is that Labyrinth is a failure of a film. It may work for children, at which it is squarely aimed (if lack of sense and development are what make a children's film good), but ultimately it only serves well as a reminder for the "good old" eighties.
Best scene: Connelly and Bowie have themselves a duel on an Escher painting like set, which is quite original. The set, not the duel.
Picture quality: Pretty ordinary and showing the film's age, with severe lack of details and colors all looking washed out.
Sound quality: I already talked about the ADR, but the first thing that took me by surprise was the DVD settling for a stereo soundtrack instead of a 5.1 one. Shame. The sound we do have is quite short on resolution, though.
Overall: It tries to be original. It fails. 1.5 stars.

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